Theory of divine origin of the state

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The Theory of divine origin of the state is the oldest theory concerning the primary origin of state. According to it, the state is established by God(s), who rule(s) the state directly or indirectly through someone regarded as an agent.


The divine theory or the theocratic conception is almost as old as the state itself, and was universally popular in primitive society. It is a well authenticated fact that the early forms of political authority were often connected with unseen powers. According to MacIver, the earliest rulers were a combination of Priest, Magic man, and King.[1]

According to the Mahabharata, there was anarchy in the world, and the people prayed to God for a King, and God appointed Manu to rule over them. According to the Jews, the King is treated owing responsibility to God alone for his acts. There are many references in the Old Testament which state that God appoints, dismisses, and even slays rulers. These references were used by Medieval writers to assert supremacy of the Catholic church over political affairs, as the Pope is regarded as a living man closest to God. The Protestant Reformation gave a new impetus to the divine theory. It was declared in the Augsburg Confession (1530) that all authority, government, law and order have been created and established by God himself. Bousset advocated the theory of divine origin to support the despotism of Louis XIV. James I , in his book The Law of Free Monarchies asserted this theory, claiming that Kings derived their authority directly from God (see theory of divine right of kings).[2] The theory of divine origin lost its popularity by the late 18th century, although it was still popular in places such as Czarist Russia until its collapse.


According to Gilchrist, "to say that God selects this or that man as ruler is contrary to experience and commonsense". Most modern political scientists believe that it is too much to believe that God decided to create the state after thinking about it. The theory is considered as dangerous, as it allowed monarchs to have unlimited power. According to Bluntschili, a statesman may "tempt God and shirk responsibility". As the theory of evolution, and the social contract theory became more popular, the theory of the divine origin of the state eventually died out.


  1. Misra, K.K - Political Theory, page 71, ISBN 8121903467
  2. Mahajan, V.D. - Political Theory, page 250, ISBN 8121903696